ATHENS – After vowing to obey a court order to make retroactive payments to pensioners, the New Democracy government is said to be considering cutting them if beneficiaries choose a lump sum.
Some two million people are due the back payments on the verdict of the Council of State, the country's highest administrative court, which said austerity-driven pension cuts by the then-ruling Radical Left SYRIZA in 2015-16 were unconstitutional.
The Leftists had sworn not to make the pension cuts but then-premier Alexis Tsipras did it anyway and then said it wasn't his fault because he had no choice but to follow orders from the country's European lenders to get another bailout.
Now New Democracy, with the economy faltering over the COVID-19 lockdown that temporarily – or permanently – closed non-essential businesses up to 10 weeks, and with tourism falling like a rock, indicated it can't afford to make the payments.
That's despite some 72 billion euros ($84.29 billion) in pledged aid from the European Union to help offset the COVID-19 costs, after the government paid out 17.5 billion euros ($20.49 billion) in temporary subsidies to laid-off workers and companies.
The Finance Ministry also reportedly said immediate lump sum payments would come with a requirement the pensioners forgo the right for any further claims, the court order coming after a suit.
The government, the paper said, has decided that all pensioners will be paid, not just those who took part in the suit so that there won't be more suits filed using the payouts, and that the payments will come from the 2020 budget which is set to show a primary deficit of 4.5-7 percent because of COVID-19's big economic hit.